For the second week in a row, the Miami Dolphins defense came up with a game-winning fourth down stop to seal a victory, this time by the score of 24-17 over New England on Sunday Night Football.
In Week 1, cornerback Justin Bethel and linebacker Jaelan Phillips took down Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert to close out the win.
Tonight, in a primetime divisional showdown at Gillette Stadium, it was another communal effort that won the game.
On fourth-and-four from the Miami 33-yard line, Bethel was in on the action again and held former Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki short of the line to gain. But before he hit the ground, Gesicki threw a lateral to offensive lineman Cole Strange. Strange was met immediately by safety Jevon Holland and linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel, who stopped him just short of the first-down marker to force a turnover on downs.
Like last Sunday, Tagovailoa took a knee and the Dolphins escaped with a dramatic victory on the road.
The Dolphins defense came through with drive-ending plays from the game’s opening possession. First, linebacker David Long Jr. flew into the backfield and sacked quarterback Mac Jones for a nine-yard loss to set up third-and-21 and an eventual punt.
On New England’s next possession, outside linebacker Bradley Chubb ran down Patriots wide receiver Demario Douglas, knocked the ball loose, and safety DeShon Elliott recovered.
Those two plays led to points for the Dolphins offense.
Miami’s first drive spanned 81 yards on 13 plays over seven-plus minutes of game time and ended with a 23-yard field goal from Jason Sanders.
After Elliott’s fumble recovery, completions of 15 and 28 yards to wide receiver Jaylen Waddle put Miami in striking distance. Running back Raheem Mostert then found the end zone from eight yards out to give the Dolphins a 10-0 lead with 9:43 left to play in the first half.
Later in the second quarter, Elliott again came up with a big play, this time a pass-deflection on third-and-9 to end the Patriots drive and force a 49-yard field goal from kicker Chad Ryland.
Tagovailoa and the Dolphins offense returned to the field with 1:49 remaining in the half and a 10-3 lead. They came off the field 98 seconds later with a two-touchdown advantage.
A 22-yard completion to wide receiver River Cracraft put the ball in Patriots territory. Three plays later, Tagovailoa dropped in a perfect pass to wide receiver Braxton Berrios to set up first-and-goal from the New England two-yard line. A quick pass to Tyreek Hill stretched Miami’s lead to 17-3 just before halftime.
Tagovailoa ended the drive 7-for-7 for 69 yards and the half 15-for-20 for 181 yards.
As was the story in the first half, turnovers and negative plays fueled the Dolphins defense in the second.
On third-and-one from the Miami 42-yard line, Holland cut into the backfield and stopped running back Rhamondre Stevenson for a four-yard loss.
After Miami’s 49-yard field goal was blocked on the following possession, the defense responded again. With the Patriots driving deep into Dolphins territory, cornerback Xavien Howard pulled in a toe-tap interception on a pass intended for former Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker.
Tagovailoa and the offense could not capitalize, however, as the Dolphins gave the ball back to the Patriots with short field position.
Jones took advantage, scampering for an 18-yard run on third-and-15, and eventually finding tight end Hunter Henry for a six-yard score to make it 17-10 Miami.
After a Tagovailoa interception, linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel sacked Jones for a 10-yard loss on second down to help force a punt.
On the first play of the ensuing drive, Mostert ran up the middle untouched for a 43-yard touchdown to extend Miami’s lead to 14, 24-10.
Stevenson scored on a two-yard run with 5:29 left to play but the Dolphins defense held on in the final minutes of the game to complete the team’s second consecutive 2-0 start.
Hill (40) and Waddle (86) combined for 126 of Tagovailoa’s 249 passing yards while Raheem Mostert (121) posted his fourth career 100-yard rushing game on 18 carries (6.7 avg.).
Jones finished with 231 yards through the air while Stevenson finished with a team-high 50 rushing yards.
With road wins in Week 1 and Week 2 for the first time since 2013, the Dolphins (2-0) return to Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 24 for the team’s regular-season home opener against the Denver Broncos (0-2).
Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m. ET on CBS.
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